The March for Equality took place in Kiev on June 12. Participants in this peaceful demonstration to protect LGBTI rights in Ukraine demanded equal rights, dignity, and freedom for all the country’s residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
While we welcome this action by Ukrainian activists, ADC Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties believe that on this day it is appropriate to issue a reminder that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is still widespread and that in some parts of Ukraine under Russian control, homophobia is taking an increasingly severe form and putting the lives and safety of residents in danger.
This problem is the subject a new human rights report entitled “Violation of the Rights of LGBTI People in Crimea and Donbass: the Problem of Homophobia in Territories Beyond the Control of Ukraine,” which was prepared by the Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial with support from the Center for Civil Liberties
Dozens of witnesses to the events of recent years in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine were interviewed for this report. Many of them spoke about the persecution of sexual and gender minorities, the prevailing atmosphere of fear, lack of openness, and uncertainty, and the impossibility of coming out even to close friends or of trusting the LGBTI community. In this war-torn region, people’s lives are in constant danger, and this danger is multiplied many times over for members of the LGBTI community due to the open homophobia exhibited by armed people, orders and rules issued by members of the local “government,” and the influence of Russian laws restricting minority rights and banning “gay propaganda.” This report analyzes both Ukrainian laws and Russian laws (which have been introduced de-facto in occupied Ukraine) regarding family, labor, and other minority rights, as well as recent “legislative acts” promulgated in the self-proclaimed DNR and LNR.
The report concludes that the situation for members of the LGBTI community in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has worsened significantly over the past two years. Activists have been forced to leave the area or stop working with their organizations, and the members of sexual and gender minorities who remain have been subjected to constant discrimination and face exposure, persecution, isolation, stigmatization, and even criminalization. LGBTI adolescents and families with children and transgender people are in the most vulnerable positions.
ADC Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties strongly recommend that all parties in the conflict adopt decisive measures to improve the situation for LGBTI people by putting an end to persecution and harassment and by prosecuting all hate crimes related to sexual orientation and gender identity so that these crimes do not go unpunished. The free exercise of all rights and freedoms guaranteed by Ukrainian and international law must be ensured for all LGBTI people. It is important to note that international organizations bear particular responsibility in regards to monitoring observance of the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups of the population.
The Crimea and parts of Donbass that are not under the control of the Ukrainian government should not be perceived as “gray areas of the law.” Their residents must be helped to realize their rights, and freedom, equality, and dignity must be ensured for all.